This is what I would tell a client if they asked ‘will intuitive eating work for me?”. Firstly, you need to get clear on what you mean by “work”. Do you mean weight-loss? Becoming a more mindful eater? Feeling more at peace with how your body looks?
My assumption is that if you’re asking this question, you’ve likely been influenced to think of Intuitive Eating as another diet, or a way of eating that could help you lose weight. The truth is Intuitive Eating is not a diet and it is not intended for weight-loss purposes. Also, there is no objective measure of success, or how it looks when it’s ‘working’ for you. It's a deeply personal journey.
Instead of looking at it as a diet, or way of losing weight without dieting, it may be helpful to think of it as self care and eating combined. In fact, Intuitive Eating is defined as a “self-care eating framework” (Tribole, 2019). Unlike the usual healthy eating approach that just focusses on physical health, Intuitive Eating puts mental health first. It acknowledges that wellbeing isn't just about how you're eating and that even the healthiest of eaters will be unhealthy if they're mental health is compromised (by a stressful relationship with food, or another stressor). It emphasises eating in a way that honours your health and pleasure.
Mental health is often ignored in the nutrition convo, but if you’ve ever gone through any sort of food struggle, you know just how much of a toll it can take mentally. From feeling like your life is utterly controlled by food or the devastating shame that arises from finding yourself at the bottom of another tub of ice cream on a particularly lonely or stressful night.
So to the question “will intuitive eating work for me?”, here’s a short quiz that can help you get an answer:
Do I feel like I can’t stop myself when eating specific foods like sweets, cake, ice cream, chips, pizza etc? ? (Yes/No)
Do I feel sad or depressed because I don’t like my body? (Yes/No)
Do I feel guilty, ashamed or depressed when I eat the ‘wrong’ food? (Yes/No)
Is how I eat governed by food rules about what, when and how much to eat? (Yes/No)
Do I struggle to relax and enjoy myself when eating out with friends/family? (Yes/No)
Am I often concerned that eating certain ‘bad’ foods will make me gain weight or become unhealthy? (Yes/No)
Do I spend a lot of time everyday thinking/daydreaming/talking about food? (Yes/No)
If you’ve answered yes to even one of these questions, I highly encourage you to use Intuitive Eating as a tool to heal your relationship with food. Gradually becoming an intuitive eater over the past four years has radically improved my mental health, my quality of life and relationship with my body too. I wish nothing more for you too to experience the freedom that comes with having a more peaceful relationship with food.
I’d love to hear your questions/comments about this topic. Leave a comment below or send me an email by clicking here!
Until next time
Tribole, E., 2019. Definition of Intuitive Eating - Intuitive Eating. [online] Intuitive Eating. Available at: <https://www.intuitiveeating.org/definition-of-intuitive-eating/> [Accessed 24 January 2022].